City slums show the dark side of urban development

Sprawling industries and emerging urban lifestyles in Ahmedabad enfolds in itself a dark and morbid life of scarcity, filth and deprivation. Nearly 41 per cent of people in the city live in slums.

There are 792 slums spread all across the city. Migrants from Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh who come in search of a livelihood also live here. But the majority comprises scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. A good percentage of migrants from Bengal and Bangladesh is also seen.

For their betterment, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) runs the Slum-Networking Project (SNP), which has received help from Gujarat Mahila Housing SEWA Trust, SAATH (NGO), and the private sectors.

Under the SNP, slums are entitled to get electricity, water supply, sanitation, streetlights, paved roads, sewage and solid waste management, and storm water drainage facilities.

Electricity being a major issue in slums, AMC started the Slum Electrification Project to give streetlights. Under the project, Torrent Power takes electricity to the households. About 1.47 lakh homes have got electricity under Tatkalik Ane Saral Vij Jodan Yojana. Ramapirno Tekro, Poorpidit Nagar, J P Ni Chali, Soni Ni Chali, Kagdiwad, Millat Nagar, Shah Alam and Dudheshwar are a few slums that have got the benefit of electricity.

Not all the slums are included in the SNP, said AMC's additional city engineer, Anand Patel. Tenements that are less than 40 square feet need a No-Objection Certificate. There are at least 7,000 households that do not come under the project. "AMC is proposing some plans to JNNURM for these pockets," he said.

"We have to pay Rs 750 for the connection and an additional Rs 250 to fix the metre box. Every month we get a bill of Rs 150-200. We cannot afford to pay more than Rs 1,000 for a connection," said Gita Rabari, a slum-dweller of Baba Ramdev Nagar of Chandloda slums in Isanpur.

A Torrent Power officer said: "Before the project was initiated, a survey was carried out. According to the details available with the AMC and the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), there were 2.49 lakh slums in Torrent Power Limited's distribution area. Out of this, only 0.96 lakh were electrified. With the new settlements of about 8,800 new hutments, 14,000 households are yet to be electrified."

With nearly 25 per cent of the slums not having electricity, slum-dwellers have resorted to stealing it from those who have installed metres. There are also 'dealers' who illegally supply electricity to houses.

"My paan shop hardly provides me with any money. Therefore, I supply electricity to houses. I get the wire connections from an electricity metre in the neighborhood. Five to six houses can get electricity from one wire in just Rs 150," claimed Raju (name changed).

While government officials are trying to convince the illegal electricity suppliers to get metres provided by the municipal corporation, the slow process of getting electricity after filling up the application form puts off many.

"I had applied for electricity months back. I own a shop. They are asking us to pay Rs 3,600 to get a connection for commercial usage," said Bharat Thakore, a paan shop owner in Chandlodia slum.

"We are planning to appoint an individual from the slum itself who can take our applications in bulk and give them to the municipal corporation. This will fasten the long awaited process of getting electricity. When we are ready for legal connections, we are being asked for more money," said Thakore.

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